Decision to lift Keane suspension infuriates Croke Park officials

Central Hearing Committee’s decision has possibly opened up a Pandora’s box

The GAA disciplinary system has been left embarrassed by a series of reverses at this week's meeting of the Central Hearings Committee, which resulted in a number of charges being rejected on Wednesday night.

The highest-profile case, Tyrone footballer Tiernan McCann's contesting of a charge that he discredited the association by taking a dive against Monaghan in the recent All-Ireland quarter-finals, has prompted the least amount of angst given that the Central Competitions Control Committee, which brought the charge, had been aware that successfully enforcing that rule would be a difficult task.

There is however intense annoyance within the national administration that Mayo's Kevin Keane somehow escaped a proposed suspension after being clearly seen to strike Donegal's Michael Murphy, also in the quarter-finals for which he was shown a red card.

According to the CHC press release, the committee found that Keane's "infraction as alleged was not proven". Yet the report of referee David Gough stated that the red card had been issued for striking in accordance with the rules and the infraction was widely seen on television to have taken place.


Such a technical error is very unusual in any committee chaired by Liam Keane, the solicitor who was the founder secretary of the Disputes Resolution Committee, the GAA's independent arbitration body established, and is currently chair of the CHC.

Keane however had stepped aside from the Keane hearing because he knows the referee – both are from Meath. Furthermore, another committee member with serious experience of the administration of discipline Declan Hallissey, who was one of the first appointed to the DRA panel 10 years ago, also stepped down for the Keane hearing, as his county Dublin are Mayo's next opponents in the All-Ireland semi-final on Sunday week.

It is understood Croke Park officials are very unhappy at this striking down of a suspension for no apparent reason.

There has however been no official response to these proceedings, which also included a decision to rescind a black card issued to another Tyrone player, Conor Meyler, again on the grounds that the infraction hadn't been proven.

Of the four cases before the CHC only Mayo's Donal Vaughan failed to secure acquittal, as his challenge to the black card he picked up in the match against Donegal was not successful. McCann's hearing attracted the most public interest both because his dive – throwing himself to the ground when his hair was ruffled and allowing the Tyrone medics to tend him – was seen by so many and led to the sending-off of Monaghan's Darren Hughes and because Tyrone are contesting this weekend's All-Ireland semi-final against champions Kerry.

The GAA had hoped to build a case under Rule 7.2 (e) for ‘Misconduct considered to have discredited the association,’ as the punishment for feigning injury is covered in the playing rules and attracts only a yellow card. It was always unlikely that the association’s disciplinary apparatus would allow 7.2 (e) (Official Guide I) to be imposed when the infraction was already covered elsewhere – ‘Playing Rule 5.4: To attempt to achieve an advantage by feigning a foul or injury’ (Official Guide II).

Within the CCCC, however, there was a strong view that McCann had gone farther than this with a deliberate attempt to have an opponent sent off and the decision was taken to charge him with the more serious infraction and to recommend an eight-week ban, the minimum prescribed under 7.2. (e).

Whereas there was acknowledgement that this charge mightn’t stick, it was felt that to proceed with it would focus attention on the issue. If necessary, a new rule would be brought to next year’s annual congress. That course of action will now go ahead and it will be up to delegates to decide if they want in increase the punishment applicable to the infraction.

Speaking at the launch of the this year's International Rules jersey, new Ireland and former Armagh manager Joe Kernan was asked his reaction to the matter, given his strongly expressed views on what he saw as Tyrone player Philip Jordan's feigning injury, which resulted in the sending off of Armagh's Diarmuid Marsden in the 2003 All-Ireland final.

“I think it’s disappointing, it is in the game and I think the GAA will sort it out. The GAA sent out a bit of a message last week about it but the bottom line is that I wouldn’t like to see anybody missing an All-Ireland semi-final or final over an incident like that.

“The lad (McCann) is back, he is free to play. If the GAA want to look at it down the road – they’ve made their mind up that they will look at it. Wait a second boys, it’s all about what happens this Sunday. I’m looking forward to it, if it’s anything like last week. Croke Park will be rocking two weeks in a row.”

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times